Employee Engagement

14 Ways to Build a Positive Work Environment [Crowdsourced]

By
Sriram Palaniapan

Table of Contents

The average person spends about one-third of their life in their office. If that is not enough, work extends way beyond office hours sometimes, be it physically or mentally!

With that much time dedicated to someone’s work, being in an unhealthy work environment makes things unbearable. A negative work environment only leads to stress, making people quickly burn out. If that is not a problem itself, burned-out individuals lose productivity over time and are at high risk of leaving altogether.

So, what can you do to make sure that your business’ employees do not have to go through that stress? Well, you need to create a positive working environment that makes them like their work in the first place. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry! In this article, we will talk to you about what exactly a positive work environment is and how you can achieve it in your business!

teamwork for a positive work environment

What is a Positive Work Environment?

A healthy and possible work environment is where employees feel comfortable being who they are. A positive work environment focuses on growth, people’s mental and physical health, and safety.

When a company has a positive work environment, it means that they see people as humans and not machines. This type of company culture acknowledges that people should have a life beyond work and the time they are in the office should be simultaneously fun and productive. It is a place where people feel comfortable, safe, and get to learn and grow each day.

Here are some characteristics of a positive work environment:

  • Good work-life balance
  • Growth opportunities
  • Optimistic thinking
  • High employee morale
  • Compassion and empathy toward people
  • Transparent and honest communication
  • A productive environment without pressure

Why Should You Care About the Work Environment?

Are you wondering why you should care about happy employees while your primary goal is generating more business? Such a thought process might only lead to unsatisfied and unproductive employees. And how will unproductive employees make the company bloom?

A positive work environment has the power to change the entire course of how people look at work. When they have a healthy approach to work, it is your business that will profit. Here, we will explain more reasons why you should care about how good your work culture and environment are.

1. Makes Happy Employees

There is a reason why research by Deloitte suggests that 88 percent of employees and 94 percent of executives believe that a positive work environment goes a long way. This is mostly because a positive working environment means that your staff will be happy. The happier they are, the more they are likely to want to keep working productively for you!

As a manager, you need to know that happier people produce better results, and the best way to keep them happy is by making the workplace positive and healthy. Burak Ozdemir, founder and CEO of Alarm Journal has experienced the benefits of this at his own company.

“I always aim to provide each of my employees with not just a rewarding job but a competitive workplace as well,” Ozdemir says. “With it, they’ll see how their careers will grow. When it’s paired with a manager that values them, they’ll become the greatest asset your company can ever have.”

2. Decreases Employee Turnover

Increasing employee retention is extremely important for most managers and HR representatives. After all, every time a new person walks into your business, you have to spend a lot of time training them. By the time they leave, they know a lot about how things work in your business, and you are left with new people to train. Therefore, employee turnover can be extremely problematic when it comes to productivity and efficiency.

The same study by Deloitte mentions that by adapting positive workplace environments, companies can reduce their employee turnover rates by 58 percent. That is a pretty high number!

Since engagement is such an important part of a positive work environment, it’s important to regularly reevaluate what factors might be contributing to employee disengagement and turnover.

Barry Elliott, CEO & Founder of End2End Wins, encourages companies to focus on the four forces of disengagement that cause employee turnover when deciding how to increase positivity in the work environment. He classifies these as (1) poor job fit, (2) bad management, (3) dysfunctional team dynamics, and (4) a toxic organizational culture. “I usually find that one or more of the disengagement factors are in play when helping executives diagnose the root causes of turnover in their company,” he adds.

3. Attracts Better Talent

Most people care more about the company culture than anything else. Therefore, if your company has a positive workplace culture, it is more likely to attract and retain the best talent in the industry. And naturally, the more efficient your team is, the better your business will function.

A crucial part of attracting better talent is realizing the value of the employees you already have. Hasnain Malik, talent director at Brainchild Communications has learned how important keeping current employees happy is when searching for quality talent.

“If your existing staff does not like their company, how will they ever recommend anyone else to join the company?” Malik says. “Existing staff members are also brand ambassadors, and they will vouch for your company when companies compensate them well. Let them take on challenges that would give them a sense of achievement, keep them happy, and don’t let them feel stagnant at any point.”
teams achieving milestones together

4.  Builds Engagement and Keeps Wages Competitive

During this all-time low in employee retention, it can be difficult to decide how your payment structure involves employee engagement. Many companies are offering higher wages than ever before, yet their employees are still not sticking around. So, how do you know when to increase wages? 

Surprisingly, compensation typically has very little to do with whether an employee stays with their current company. Things like enjoying their role, appreciating the company culture, and respecting the management team generally rank much higher. Rather than jumping immediately to wage increases, take a look at building your employee engagement first.

Eran Galperin, CEO of Gymdesk, suggests building engagement through implementing an effective rewards program. “Recognizing and rewarding employee service elevates employee morale, resulting in a motivated staff that is driven to stay with your company for the long haul,” Galperin says. 

However, having competitive wages is still important if you want to attract top talent. You just need to make sure that you continue to reward employees properly for their efforts after they’re hired so they have the motivation to stay.

“Keep an eye on what the competition is offering, but provide raises on merit,” says Ryan Rottman, CEO and Co-founder of OSDB Sports. “You always want your most valued team members to feel well-compensated for their work, and not simply because other companies are paying more.”

5. Increases Employee Productivity

As any business owner knows, productivity is the lifeblood of any business. If your employees are not engaged in the work they are doing, their productivity—and thus, your profit— goes down. Taking steps to improve workplace positivity can have an incredible impact on your employees’ ability to be both productive and creative.

“Employees who work in a happy atmosphere are more likely to see their job as their own and put out their best efforts to develop innovative ideas,” Jonathan Tian, co-founder of Mobitrix says.

Things That Build a Positive Work Environment

Now that you understand what a positive working environment should look like and why your business needs it, you might be wondering how to make it a reality in your own workplace.

While it might seem unattainable, it is achievable if you implement some basic policies and rules. Here are fourteen things you can do to make your business’ work environment as positive and welcoming as it can be!

1. Make the Hiring Process More Humane

The first impression is the last, and you should certainly make the most out of it. The better your hiring process, the better your company’s goodwill will be.

This way, the employees you do end up hiring will already know the positivity they can look forward to. Moreover, the candidates you do not hire will have a positive attitude toward the company—something you can leverage in the industry.

To make the hiring process simpler and more humane you must do the following:

  • Be consistent with your communication with the candidates
  • Not expect them to do multiple sample tasks 
  • Pay prospective employees for any sample tasks you do ask of them
  • Offer a complete job description before the multiple selection rounds
  • Give them proper feedback if they are not selected

2. Encourage Peer-to-peer Recognition

What better way to build a great culture than by making sure people feel appreciated frequently for their work?

Peer-to-peer recognition is a way for employees to recognize each other’s contributions to the organization. This helps build trust among team members and creates a sense of belonging. The key to successful peer-to-peer recognition is making sure everyone knows what they did well and how they contributed to the company. This type of recognition encourages collaboration, increases morale, and improves overall performance. It works well for companies that want to encourage innovation and creativity.

According to Chantay Bridges, CEO of BPH Bridges Publishing House, focusing on peer-to-peer recognition can help build a positive work environment by changing employees’ perspectives of their coworkers.

“Instead of looking at your neighbor as your competitor or the one that’s trying to take your job, you will view that person in a more positive light,” Bridges says. “It’s not ‘me versus them’—more of an ‘us,’ forging new heights together on the same team.”

So how do you implement peer-to-peer recognition in your workplace? There are several ways to do this, many of which can be detailed further in our other blog article, Peer-to-Peer Recognition: 9 Curated Examples and Ideas for 2022. However, according to Amanda Kilpatrick, Head of HR at Way.com, a great way to start is by providing a space for employees to share things.

“At Way.com, we have a ‘fun’ Microsoft Teams channel for wins where everyone can share their successes and accomplishments,” Kilpatrick says. “The coolest thing about it is that you see how excited people get to celebrate with their coworkers.”
 

3. Invest in Effective Team Onboarding and Training

Think of hiring new employees as inviting people into a new group. You’d introduce the new people to everyone at the party to break the ice, right? Similarly, when new people join your team, proper onboarding and training help them get acquainted with the work culture, people, and their job. This way, they do not have to fall victim to the sink-or-swim mentality.

According to a BambooHR survey, effective onboarding leads to 17 percent of recruits staying within the company for the first three months.

While some companies conduct even 2-3 week-long onboarding processes, even a simple 2-6 day onboarding event goes a long way. Proper onboarding should be able to:

  • Break the ice of initial communication between the new and existing employees
  • Make new people get familiarized with the company’s mission and vision
  • Help recruits get a hand of their job
  • Give old and new employees get a better sense of what their workflow looks like
  • Educate new people to get a look into how the company’s workplace policies and codes look like

4. Work on Company’s Values and Culture

The company’s mission and vision somewhat define its work culture. And it is the company’s work culture that shapes the workspace environment.

Take time to evaluate whether your work culture is employee-centric or business-centric. While a business-centric approach and culture are good for achieving ambitious goals, they often come with the cost of employee happiness—something you should not compromise in a positive work environment.

Also, take a look at your company’s core values and make them have either a balanced approach or an employee-leaning outlook. Make sure that the company’s culture is relaxed, yet productive; inclusive, yet professional; and ambitious, yet compassionate. With a healthy work culture, you can even align your office’s structures and policies to make the workplace environments feel more positive.

Scot Chrisman, founder and CEO of The Media House, understands just how important this is.

“It is essential for a company to assess and revise its values and make them more suitable to the needs of its current employees,” Chrisman says. “This way, they can make the organization more favorable and accommodating for everyone, which contributes to the overall positivity of the workplace.”

5. Allow the Workspaces to be Comfortable

Many people tend to believe that the work environment is only reflected through values and policies. However, it is important to note that the environment is drastically influenced by physical space, comfort, and aesthetics as well. The more you do to make your workspace comfortable and encourage employee health, the more positive the work environment will be for your employees. This is why major companies such as Google and Apple have recently introduced standing workstations to help employees focus more and also be physically healthier.

Here are a few things you can do to design a comfortable work environment for your team:

  • Focus on desk and chair ergonomics
  • Make the office aesthetically pleasing
  • Incorporate coworking spaces for better collaboration
  • Add greenery and fun elements to the design

Not only will these things make your employees happy—they’ve also been proven to increase employee productivity. Luisa Favaretto, founder of Strategistico, has seen this in action for her company.

“At Strategistico, we also believe a comfortable and active work environment that blends mental and physical activities can positively influence the quality of our output,” Favaretto says. Our experience has been that these small changes have had a drastic impact on the productivity and positivity of our team. There is a greater sense of teamwork and collaboration that can be generated when you are not just sitting in one place all day.”

Here are a few real-world examples of how Favaretto has made this work for her business:

  • Standing desks: “We have provided the option for standing desks and try to place everyone near a window,” Favaretto says. “That way, they can take advantage of the natural daylight and the calming view of the trees and parks outside.”
  • Workout equipment: “We have also added some workout equipment to promote physical movement, such as light weights, elastic bands, and yoga mats so that people can burn a few calories during their breaks,” Favaretto adds.

6. Make Check-ins as Important as Audits

Everyone knows that to make a company successful, continuous audits are crucial. However, to make a positive work environment successful, you need to give as much importance to check-ins as audits.

Instead of standing over your employee’s desks to supervise, consider sitting down with them and having a chat. Compassion and respect go a long way to define how people function within your organization. This is also the best way to get feedback from your team on how well the company is being managed and how they like the work environment.

Try to encourage one-on-one semipersonal conversations within the workspace. This way, whatever the people might be facing, you’ll find a venting space to fall back on.

“I hold standing weekly ones-on-ones with each member of the team,” says Bernie Schot, CEO of REECH. “The first fifteen minutes are never about work. This builds trust and a personal connection that eventually leads to more productive work.”

Checking in on your employees as frequently as work audits also adds a sense of community and comfort within the organization and allows you to have happy employees. However, it’s important to do all you can to keep these check-ins as stress-free as possible. If done right, they can be valuable tools in building employee loyalty and trust.

“Most workers find audits to be stressful due to their inherently serious nature,” says Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love. “To avoid a similar kind of stress with check-ins, make sure to keep them casual and down-to-earth. Let your employees know that you really want to know how they are doing and that you will take and implement any ideas they have. These kinds of conversations make employees feel truly valued by you and the company.”

7. Focus on Collaboration and Communication

Humans are social animals and need to socialize to sustain themselves. Therefore, it is important for you to promote collaborations within the organization. In a positive workspace, everyone feels heard and gets to present their ideas, regardless of their position in the team.

Here are a few ways for you to encourage collaboration within an organization:

  • Creating new channels for new projects
  • Maintaining appropriate work email chains keeping everyone in the loop
  • Create public bulletins so that everyone is aware of each project’s progress and goals

Similarly, you should ensure that open communication is strictly followed from the top to bottom management. Transparency allows people to feel accountable to be transparent, too. Moreover, the more they know about expected goals and troubles, the more they will feel comfortable in the certainty.

happy team high five

8. Give Employees Some Room to Grow 

You will know you have done something right when your employees have honed skillsets enough with you that they don’t need to stay in the organization but want to. You should always allow employees room to grow and give them newer things to work with and learn. 

While encouraging people to try newer projects, you should always give them room for making mistakes. After all, mistakes happen. When they are reversible, there is no reason to bash an employee’s confidence by punishing or scrutinizing their performance. 

“A workplace that allows its workers to unleash their potential will be more probable of gaining trust and deeper commitment,” says Erin Stone, co-founder and CEO of Hinterland Co. “Moreover, making the workers more professional and competent will contribute to building a workplace that is boosted and confident about itself.”

Experimenting and learning in a workspace is important for your employees to thrive professionally. Remember, when you tap into unknown potentials in people, you might get unexpectedly positive results. 

9. Make Sure Your Management is Macro, Not Micro 

Micromanagement is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in a workspace. As a rule of thumb, positive work environments should allow the staff to decide the trajectory of their projects and tasks as long as they reap results. 

“If you’re micromanaging your employees, that’s a sure sign you don’t trust them, but you also don’t trust your own decisions in hiring your team,” says Brian Donovan, CEO of TimeShatter. “You hired your team for a reason. Give them direction and get out of their way so they can get it done. You and your team will both be happier at not having to stress over every tiny detail.”

Macromanagement, on the other hand, allows your staff to work at their own pace in their own style. It is also because of macromanagement that healthier manager-team relations can be fostered. It is also a spectacular way to give employees a sense of trust and ownership and managers time to focus on other, more fruitful things.

A healthy work environment helps people to strategize and build their personal path to fulfilling the goals they are responsible for. 

10. Make Feedback More Growth-centric 

Feedback is the best way to help employees learn from their mistakes. However, this doesn’t mean that managers should point out and scrutinize their smallest of mistakes. While honest feedback is the backbone of collective team growth, mistaken-oriented feedback leaves people feeling inadequate or resentful. 

According to Claire Westbrook, founder of LSAT Prep Hero, one way to make feedback more growth-centric is to frame it in terms of what the person can do to improve, rather than what they did wrong. For example, instead of saying “You need to work on your organization skills,” Westbrook suggests saying something like “I noticed that you were having trouble keeping track of things. What strategies are you using to stay organized?”

Here are a few more ideas to help make your feedback more constructive and fruitful:

  • Conduct a complete performance audit instead of focusing on particular mistakes 
  • Offer appreciation wherever deserved 
  • Present mistakes with solutions instead of judgment
  • End the feedback with a summary of the employee’s strong and weak points so that they can themselves find ways to perform better
  • Allow feedback to be two-way so that the management does not become all-pervasive

11. Add Some Flexibility to the Mix

Helping people maintain a healthy work-life balance is the best way to promote a positive working environment. The healthiest work environments accommodate new trends and different lifestyles. Not everyone is the most productive between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. 

Change is the only constant, and companies that adopt flexibility have happier employees. While maintaining some work boundaries is important, employees should have the flexibility to work at their own pace as long as they are giving their best. 

Gone are the days when fixed working hours were the best way to build team collaboration. With newer communication channels, you can build a healthier work culture that allows for diversity in productivity through flexibility.

In fact, according to Phil McParlane, CEO at 4dayweek.io, four-day work weeks have become more popular within the last few years. This has mainly been due to COVID-19 pandemic burnout, but the results of this change have been quite positive.

“Not only does a shorter work week reduce staff burnout, but it also increases productivity, staff healthiness/happiness, and employee retention,” McParlane says. “We expect to see the four-day work week replace remote work as the killer benefit, given the normalization of working from home.”

12. Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance 

A healthy work-life balance helps employees be their most efficient selves in the office while getting time to recharge. Positive working cultures require people to leave work in the office. Therefore, once they are off working hours, they should have the freedom to live their lives to the fullest. 

Everyone needs to blow off steam after work, and the purpose of a positive working environment is that employees get the space to do it. Make sure that your employees do not feel pressured to take work home with them.

“What I have learned over the years is that managers and executives lead by example when it comes to implementing a healthy work/life balance,” says David Angotti, CEO of HawaiianIslands.com.

“If employees see their boss constantly staying late or working extra hours, they might feel like they need to start doing that as well. On the other hand, if they see their boss prioritizing their own personal work/life balance, they will do the same.” 

13. Say No to Glorifying Overworking

Another way to help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance is by not glorifying overworking. While people who put in extra hours should be rewarded accordingly, they should not be idealized for doing so. 

Idealizing overworking causes unhealthy pressure and competition within the organization ruining the workplace environment. Overworking is the one-way ticket to quicker and more debilitating burnouts—something that will cost your business dearly.

14. Make Work Fun 

The whole point of creating a positive working environment is that employees feel at home when they come to work. A positive work environment is one where employees can both work and have fun. “Employers have to remember how much remote employees need personal connections,” says Lisa Odenweller, CEO and founder of Kroma Wellness. Creating informal ways of bridging that gap is super critical to grasp. For example, you can set up optional, informal Friday happy hours or coffee breaks for employees. That also gives employees a chance to get to know people beyond their own teams.”

Here are a few more ways you can help make work fun for your happy employees:

  • Conduct informal chatting sessions within the organization 
  • Plan frequent office parties, giving people opportunities to relax and socialize 
  • Add fun design elements to your offices such as couches and stress-busting walls
  • Conduct company outings where people can be on vacation from work 
  • “On Slack, create channels for music suggestions, DIY ideas, funny pictures, and employees’ memes,” says Jean Gregoire, Founder and CEO of Lovebox
work hard play hard

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you still have some looming questions about how building a positive work environment will help your business and staff bloom? You’re not the only one! Hence, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions on the internet about positive work culture here! 

Q1. How are positive working environments and positive workplace cultures interrelated? 

Several people make the mistake of thinking that the work environment and work culture are the same. While they are very tightly intertwined, you must understand that the work environment is a subbranch of your business’s work culture. Therefore, whatever your work culture is, be it positive or negative, it’s reflected in the work environment. 

For example, if your business’ work culture is casual-formal communication, the work environment will reflect it through open-concept offices. Moreover, such a business’ work environment, more likely than not, will focus on staff parties and healthy work-life balance and communication. 

While they are not the same thing, a positive work culture leads to a positive work environment and the two are very closely related to each other. 

Q2. Is changing the work environment and culture possible?

Corporate culture and environment can be tricky—if not impossible—to change all at once. It takes a long time for a business to change these things. However, adopting the right policies and abiding by them goes a long way in making or breaking company culture and work environment. 

It is possible for effective management and HR representatives to completely change the course of their business’ work environment. However, it is important to note that such a change comes gradually. 

Q3. Will adopting a positive work environment improve productivity?

Yes! On the surface, it might seem like building a positive work environment means allowing employees to slack off. However, studies show how a happy workplace can lead to up to a 12 percent boost in staff productivity

Another indirect way in which the workplace environment improves productivity is by attracting more candidates willing to work for you. If the workplace environment exudes positivity, you are likely to get and retain the best brains in the industry! 

Q4. Does the future of corporations lie in positive work environments?

Most managers used to believe that the more pressure a person is under, the better they are likely to perform. However, gone are the days (or at least we hope) when unhealthy work environments were the norm.

The future lies in healthier workplaces where everyone feels acknowledged and less stressed. Unhappy employees generally have a massive drop in their qualitative and quantitative productivity. This alone makes focusing on improving work environments worth your time.

Summing Up 

On the surface, a positive work environment might look more employee centric. It might seem that adopting positive work policies might harm business interests. However, once your business has adopted these practices, you will see noticeable growth for both your business and your employees.

Actionable workplace tips & insights for fellow people lovers

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